Friday, October 22, 2010

Four Funerals for Free Speech

What is free speech?
Does 'Free Speech' come with no constraints or responsibilities whatsoever?

Is anything and everything made permissible as long as you assert you are doing it as an expression of your 'Right to free speech!'?

As a refresher, here is our First Amendment,
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
And here I'll provide some links which present, and represent it, with commentary that is relevant to that aspect of thinking which our Founders had in mind when they demanded that the Constitution be accompanied by a Bill of Rights in order to be ratified. Relevant selections of history, philosophical thought, informal commentary, and early supreme court decisions on each aspect of the First Amendment and how it applies in regards to 'Free Speech', 'Religion' and 'Petition and Assembly'.

Given our world today, a time when a government organ like NPR (supposed private corporation status aside, it's an abomination of, and a direct violation of all Americans Rights to Free Speech in and of itself) can fire people for exercising their right of reasonable discussion, and also a time when pure thugs and demagogues hide under color of authority in order to abuse the First Amendment rights of their fellow citizens in order to push their own political agenda... you had better begin reading, studying, discussing, and god dammit, FIGHTING for these Rights - or kiss them goodbye.

When does one person's 'Free Speech' infringe upon the Rights of another to peaceably assemble?
When is the exercise of the Right to peaceably assemble and to engage in free speech and the exercise of ones religion, appropriate, and when must those very Rights be defended against an onslaught by others purporting to be exercising those very same 'rights'?

A political Right is something which sustains your Right to engage in the actions and speech you choose to engage in – so long as your actions do not infringe upon another's – when they do, then the exercise of what you supposed to be your rights, is in fact infringing upon the rights of another, and when that happens, while you may be going through the outward appearance of exercising those rights, you are in fact only using them to abuse the rights of another.

And there is no Right to do any such thing.

In a land robbed of Education, such distinctions, once commonly understood to simply be examples of prudent reasoning, are shoved aside under the banner of a literalist secular fundamentalism allowed to masquerade as ‘legal reasoning’. Those few instances where legitimate Rights are defended, are simply battered away at, again and again, until they are bludgeoned into submission and our real Rights are eventually declared unconstitutional. And once this sort of thing is allowed to happen, routinely, then those few instances where regular people and communities do attempt to stand up for their Rights and for simple civil decency (Ground Zero Mosque anyone?), will be rolled over by truly despicable monsters.

That is what is happening under our very noses, and it is being defended by that institution dedicated to making a mockery of our Constitution and of our Individual Rights, the ACLU, which has just succeeded in bullying the small the town of St. Peters MO into withdrawing it’s ordinance banning protests in the area of a funeral.

“As expected, the St. Peters Board of Aldermen voted Thursday night to remove a ban on protests near funerals.

The city's ordinance had been similar to a state law that was struck down by federal judges earlier this year. A letter from the ACLU of Eastern Missouri on behalf of members of the Westboro Baptist Church prompted the board to repeal its ordinance.

Westboro members are known for protesting at the funerals of soldiers. They hold signs saying God hates gay people and celebrate the death of soldiers as God's judgment for what they believe is this country's tolerance of gays.

The ACLU won a recent federal court battle with the city of Manchester over its funeral protest law, and its letter pointed out several other cities that repealed their ordinances.”
That this issue is even discussed with any pretence of legitimacy is disgusting enough.That it is done by the ACLU on behalf of the Westboro Baptist Church purportedly defending their ‘right’ to protest at the funeral of a fallen soldier... should properly induce a seething rage in the hearts of anyone who truly values their freedom and liberty.

Last Friday was senior night at my son's High School football game. Parents of seniors escorted their son's before the start of the game as they were announced, and their immediate goals after graduation were announced, some were going to college, some into the military, etc. Before the start of the game where they had planned to play the school fight song, there was instead the announcement that the flag was flying at half mast for a graduate from the previous year, had just been killed in Afghanistan... and into that hush a young girl sang, without accompaniment, the "Star Spangled Banner", which was one of the most moving renditions I've ever heard - no dry eyes were to be found in the stands or the field.

That young man was laid to rest today... and it is to be claimed that some group of thugs has a Right to subject his family to abuse, has a Right to disrupt their right to peaceably assemble to bury their son who fell in defense of his nation, has a Right to disrupt the free exercise of their religious observance in funeral of their son?

There is NO FREE SPEECH ISSUE involved here, there is no such thing as a Right to violate the Rights of others, there is nothing here but an exercise of pure bullying under the color of the supposed authority of constitutional law. Disgusting and despicable. Particularly so because the well funded coffers of the Anti Constitutional Leftist Union subverted the rights of the people of St. Peters not in a court of law, but through the threat of financial burden that would follow their lawsuit.

"St. Peters Alderman Tommy Roberts echoed comments by four other aldermen that he was voting for the repeal only because of the money the city would have to spend to defend the law.

"If these despicable people would've showed up in protest at my dad's funeral, one of them would've gotten their ass whipped," he said. "I'm opposed to this, but we don't have the money to fight the ACLU on this. I am going to have to vote in favor of this for the sake of the taxpayers."

Aldermen Gus Elliott and Dave Thomas voted against the repeal. Elliott said he believed protesters were trampling on the First Amendment rights of mourners."
Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story commented upon almost this very issue over a century ago, on how it applies to our First Amendment Rights, and how the pretence of such actions as being the exercising of real rights, was in fact an assault upon them, that...

“"...Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." That this amendment was intended to secure to every citizen an absolute right to speak, or write, or print, whatever he might please, without any responsibility, public or private, therefor, is a supposition too wild to be indulged by any rational man. This would be to allow to every citizen a right to destroy, at his pleasure, the reputation, the peace, the property, and even the personal safety of every other citizen. A man might, out of mere malice and revenge, accuse another of the most infamous crimes; might excite against him the indignation of all his fellow citizens by the most atrocious calumnies; might disturb, nay, overturn all his domestic peace, and embitter his parental affections; might inflict the most distressing punishments upon the weak, the timid, and the innocent; might prejudice all a man's civil, and political, and private rights; and might stir up sedition, rebellion, and treason even against the government itself, in the wantonness of his passions, or the corruption of his heart. “[emphasis mine]

Justice Story correctly foresaw that if some errant bunch in society took to such methods as do the ACLU and their likeminded compatriots in Phelps's Westboro bumpkins churls, then it would certainly be disastrous for society at large and for the Rights of all those within it.

“Civil society could not go on under such circumstances. Men would then be obliged to resort to private vengeance, to make up for the deficiencies of the law; and assassinations, and savage cruelties, would be perpetrated with all the frequency belonging to barbarous and brutal communities. It is plain, then, that the language of this amendment imports no more, than that every man shall have a right to speak, write, and print his opinions upon any subject whatsoever, without any prior restraint, so always, that he does not injure any other person in his rights, person, property, or reputation; and so always, that he does not thereby disturb the public peace, or attempt to subvert the government. It is neither more nor less, than an expansion of the great doctrine, recently brought into operation in the law of libel, that every man shall be at liberty to publish what is true, with good motives and for justifiable ends. And with this reasonable limitation it is not only right in itself, but it is an inestimable privilege in a free government. Without such a limitation, it might become the scourge of the republic, first denouncing the principles of liberty, and then, by rendering the most virtuous patriots odious through the terrors of the press, introducing despotism in its worst form.”
"Introducing despotism in its worst form" - truer words....

Ladies and Gentlemen of We The People, your treasured First Amendment Rights are being subverted under the thin pretence of exercising them, in order that they might be destroyed and done away with, in government, in the media, in the courts and in our schools.

That is what is being done, and you know it. Don't you.

In less than two weeks you have a chance to begin setting this situation aright by Voting on November 2nd, but that is Not Enough. You, YOU have a responsibility to stand up for your Rights and those of your fellows, you have a responsibility to take whatever civil action you find yourself capable of, to work, to expend effort towards defending your Rights.

You have a responsibility to learn about your Constitution, a responsibility to understand what your Rights mean and a responsibility to put people into - or remove them from - positions of power and influence in your government, in your school, in the public press and in your daily lives, otherwise you will face funerals for free speech in each of those four corners of your world.

Get off your duffs and do something about it - or it will be surely be lost.
(Cross posted at 24th State)

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